Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Writing Gags

Because I'm a cartoon gag writer, I need to come up with new material on a daily basis. Besides reading constantly, being aware of new trends, keeping up with what's going on in the world, I realize I have to know the basics - how to actually write a gag. Gags (jokes) have two parts: a straight part and a twist. There are many books out there which will help you write good gags, but basically you have a straight part (think of it as a statement) and the twist (something unexpected at the end). If you can understand this, you can write gags. Books on this topic go much more in depth as to how this is done (for example: using fewer words for greater impact; always having the punch, or twist, at the end; the use of opposites) but this is the basic formula.

As I've explained in other columns, when I write gags on a particular topic, like the upcoming election, I make it easier for myself by making a list of anything I can think of that has anything to do with elections, such as: debate, polling place, candidate, contributions, cast your ballot, absentee ballot, acceptance speech, concession speech, answering questions, etc. These items, places and phrases will be used in my gag writing. It's like assembling different colors of paint before you start painting. It makes it much easier.

I also think you have to know the audience or publication you're writing for by studying the type of gags and cartoons they use. Different publications have different voices. If you study enough cartoons, or gags, in any one publication, it becomes part of you.

I also think you have to know yourself and be honest about who you are and what your opinion or outlook is. If instead of using all the latest technology you're stuck back in the Ice Age, you can easily write about how much you enjoy being back in the Ice Age. You can poke fun at yourself for being back in the Ice Age and also poke fun at those who are 'on trend.'

Any questions about any of this, feel free to email me at: Be well.

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